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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Passionate Pickers

On the far north side of Vanderburgh County, away from the bustle of the city, and up a winding gravel road through acres of cornfields lie miles of unharvested fruits, awaiting the rigid hands of an orchard-goer to snatch them from the trees’ low hanging branches.

Evansville Countryside Orchard, also known as Engelbrecht’s Countryside Orchard, is home to a variety of seasonal fruits — strawberries, sweet cherries, nectarines, apples, and its main crop, peaches. It also has a newly planted sunflower patch. The orchard, planted in 2005 and 2006, hosts field trips in the fall and offers U-Picks across its 49 acres.

“I think that’s really important for people to experience and they love to do it, but I also think it helps them understand that we don’t have machines to pick. Everything is by hand,” owner Kristi Schulz says.

Schultz and her husband Tim took over managing the operations after her father Joe Black purchased Engelbrecht’s in late 2014 and are in the process of rebranding to Evansville Countryside Orchard. Kristi, a former biology and chemistry teacher, and Tim, who grew up on a farm and worked for farmers during his teenage years, bring a broad knowledge to the orchard.

Though its growing season is limited to mid-May through the end of October, the work to maintain the orchard continues for the Schulz family throughout the winter and early spring, including pruning (cutting out dead wood or shaping trees) and then thinning (removing excess fruit to ensure sizeable fruit and preventing broken branches).

“I think one thing that people don’t realize is how much work continues after the season’s over or in between the seasons,” says Tim. “I mean, we have to go through and prune, slash, (and) trim every one of these trees. Each tree requires our hands-on attention.”

U-Pick Paradise ~ engelbrechtsorchard.com

Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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